Fishermen could borrow marketing ideas from farmers, and access to working waterfront would be improved. Farmers would learn better financial planning, and landlords might get tax incentives to offer garden space to their tenants.

Those are a few of the ideas contained in a new report that’s designed to serve as a blueprint for expanding Maine’s food economy.

The Maine Food Strategy, a broad collection of people, businesses and organizations that work in food production, reviewed more than 200 reports and conducted over 200 interviews to set priorities for strengthening Maine’s food system and making it a robust part of the state’s economy. The report, released Tuesday, is called “The Maine Food Strategy Framework: A Tool for Advancing Maine’s Food System.” The organization itself, as well as the report, gets support from nearly a dozen local and national funds, trusts and foundations.

“From my perspective, one of the things that came out of the report that was really important was this need to bring together our resources more effectively,” project director Tanya Swain said. “Some of the ideas are pretty straightforward, and they really have to do with the fact that we already have some great talent and resources and organizations working on food systems and issues and opportunities. It’s about how do we take what we have and really bring it together and focus it.”

The goals outlined in the report are wide-ranging:

• Increase market share of Maine foods, both locally and internationally.


• Help food-related businesses manage growth and change.

• Boost the incomes and benefits of the people who work in food production.

• Develop public policies favorable to farms, fisheries and other food producers.

• Address the issue of hunger in Maine.

Reading the 29-page report to the end may feel like a finish line, but “a lot of people are looking at this as a starting point,” said Joshua Stoll, founder of and a member of the Maine Food Strategy steering committee.

“What is being presented in this document is a set of goals, and in those goals there are a set of underlying ‘how do we get theres,’ ” he said. “That’s the piece that’s really exciting. This creates a blueprint for moving these ideas forward that people from all over Maine have been thinking about.”


Part of the new report deals with improving data sharing among different organizations. While some businesses might balk at handing over proprietary information, sometimes sharing data makes sense, according to the report’s authors.

“We have a number of public sector organizations that are trying to promote food systems and farms, and they’re all collecting data from farms,” Swain said. “One of the challenges for small businesses, of course, is if they want to participate in those opportunities they have to be giving their information multiple times – very similar information – to a lot of different places. One suggestion that came up was looking at how we might be able to streamline some of that data collection between organizations.”

Similarly, organizations that fight hunger in Maine are talking about conducting some client surveys together so they don’t duplicate one another’s work, said Sara Trunzo, director of the farm food bank Veggies For All and a member of the steering committee.

The report touches on a huge number of topics, including the traceability of seafoods, farmers’ best management practices, the marketing of seafood through community-supported fisheries, and financial training for sustainable agriculture, farm and fishing businesses.

Partners and stakeholders who helped develop the report will come together at the end of the month, and the project’s subcommittees will reconvene at the end of September. Then the group will hold a statewide food summit Dec. 2 at the University of Maine’s Wells Conference Center in Orono.

“People say it’s great to eat, fun to get local food, but at the end of the day it’s also about strengthening the local Maine economy and creating new economic opportunities and it being part of the economic engine that is Maine,” Stoll said. “This is not just about tomatoes and carrots and scallops.”

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